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Tough Boro girl proves doctors wrong
United Way agency helps Anna Doxey, who has rare handicap
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When Catherine and Bill Doxey’s third child came into the world on July 2, 1999, the excited parents were prepared to take their baby home to older brother William and sister Abigail.
    But when 7 lb. 14 oz Anna was born, the news was not good. The doctors said their baby's brain did not "overlap" correctly when she was born, which caused a condition known as lissencepholy/polymicrogyria. Foreign medical terms like these are impossible for a mother and father to digest in the first hours after childbirth. The doctors’ prognosis was even worse.
    “They told us Anna would not live for one day. As time went on, they told us she would not live one year,” Catherine said.
    The doctors were wrong. Seven years later, Anna Doxey is learning to read and is a student at Sallie Zetterower Elementary in Statesboro. It’s been a long journey for the Doxeys, but some say it shows what love, support, resources, devoted parents and a strong willed child can accomplish.
    Lissencepholy/polymicrogyria is a malformation of the brain in which the brain surface is smooth. Ann also suffered a resulting condition called arthrogryposis, which  describes the presence of multiple joint contractures which limits the range of motion of affected joints. The two combined lead to weakened muscles in Anna’s body. The disability is so severe that Anna is unable to talk and cannot walk unassisted.
    “She was the first child in the Bulloch area with lissencephaly. There was no one to talk to and we needed support,” said Catherine.  
    Luckily, Parent to Parent of Georgia, a United Way agency, stepped in to help when Anna was just four days old.  
    “The therapist from Babies Can’t Wait came to our house three times a week and this lasted until she was 3 years old.  Catherine Doxey, a registered nurse, recalled the first time they tried to feed their baby through the feeding tube.  
    “We were scared to death.  It took me, my mom, my father, who is a physician, and my husband Bill and we did not know how to feed her!" she said. "Parent to Parent was there every step of the way though. “They did therapy in our home and helped us get Anna enrolled in preschool.”
    The Children’s Medical Services program also assisted the Doxeys. The organization provided a bath chair, feeding chair and provided a medical clinic so they would not have to travel to Atlanta and Augusta to find a provider for equipment.  
    “This was extremely helpful because the bath chair costs $500 and at the time I was unable to return to my career as a registered nurse because of Anna’s extensive medical needs,” she said.  
    Although Anna’s throat and mouth muscles don’t allow her to form words, she can still communicate through a sophisticated communication board attached to her electric wheelchair. The board acts as her voice and her teachers can program it.
    Don Garrick, Anna’s special education teacher at Sallie Zetterower, works extensively with the seven-year-old student.   
    “Her receptive language is good,” said Garrick. “She has ways to let you know what she wants whether it be by gesturing or pointing."
    Anna’s communication board is like a laptop computer and is touch activated.
    “She can switch from topic to topic and page to page with the touch of her finger or a stylus,” he said.
    Anna is also known to make appearances at Principal Todd Williford’s office on the Friday mornings before University of Georgia games. Since Williford is a huge UGA fan, Anna plays the Bulldog fight song for him through the MP3 player which has been programmed on her communication board.  
    “All of our staff is very receptive to our students with disabilities and they go to great lengths to help them,” Garrick says.
    Currently, Anna and Garrick are working on letter recognition and letter sounds to learn how to put sounds together to form words.
    Beyond school, there is also a great deal of “home work” in terms of therapy.  Due to lack of specialized therapy services in Bulloch County, Catherine transports Anna to Backus Children’s Hospital in Savannah three times a week for occupational, physical, speech and feeding therapy.  
    Over the years the Doxeys have become parent volunteers with Parent to Parent.      “Their whole family is fabulous,” said Marsha Hagan, regional coordinator of Parent to Parent of Georgia. “Bill has made presentations to United Way to represent Parent to Parent and they have both been a valuable resource for other parents around the state. “The hardest thing in the world is to have a child with a disability and not be able to connect with another person in a similar situation,” explains Hagan.  
    The Doxeys have committed themselves to helping other families searching for help.  They can talk to other parents about everything from feeding tube issues to how they transitioned their child from "Babies Can’t Wait" to school.
    “When Anna was a baby, the doctors told us to take her home and treat her like a normal child and that is what we have done,” Catherine said.
    From skiing with the family in Aspen in a “Challenge Aspen” program for special needs children to traveling to Disney World and New York City to see the Rockettes, Anna has enjoyed a normal childhood despite her special needs.   
    Like other first graders, she is learning to read and plays on the computer where she enjoys her favorite website  Catherine believes her daughter will walk some day.
    “She is very determined and our greatest hope is that she will be able to continue to improve her communication skills so that we can nurture and support her in the greatest way possible.”   

    Parent to Parent is one of 20 United Way agencies in Bulloch County.  If you would like to give to United Way, send your tax deductible contribution to United Way of Southeast Georgia, 515 Denmark St., Suite 1100, Statesboro, GA  30458
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